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Manitoba unveils $200-million relief plan for victims of deliberate flood

Bryan Ezako, owner of a home which is surrounded by water on Golden Oak Cove, boats to his home near St. Francis Xavier, Man., Tuesday, May 9, 2011. Flood waters from the Assiniboine River are threatening several communities.

John Woods/The Canadian Press

Manitoba Premier Greg Selinger unveiled special compensation plans for waterlogged residents affected by a deliberate flood - making good, he says, on a pledge earlier this month to cover all damage incurred by the province's "extraordinary" step to punch a hole in a dike in the hopes of staving off a major breach.

The fund will cover "100 per cent of incurred costs" of flood-protection measures, flood mitigation and evacuation - including property damage and lost income - for everyone within the 225-square-kilometre area near Hoop and Holler Bend, where a cut in the dike last week let loose about 500 cubic feet of water a second over the course of several days. The province has pledged to cover all losses to farmers, including the multi-year financial hit from drowned perennial crops.

The existing disaster assistance plan, which has a cap of $200,000 and doesn't cover lost income, will cover all other flood-affected Manitobans. Cottagers are eligible for up to $90,000 for structural damage.

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The province is also putting money toward additional flood-prevention efforts. Mr. Selinger estimated the "global" costs of aid and recovery at about $200-million.

The swollen Assiniboine River is in the throes of once-in-three-centuries flooding, which has tested the province's resources, brought in more than 1,000 military troops and prompted the evacuation of thousands of residents.

"It's an unprecedented event. We've never seen that before in modern history," Mr. Selinger told reporters Tuesday.

"It's historic. And that's why we're taking these extraordinary measures to provide these additional supports."

He reassured farmers and landowners concerned about the time lag between filing a claim and getting their money that compensation would be swift - possibly within weeks. The province is setting up a task force to go through applications and personally visit claimants, he said.

"The proof will be in the pudding. We've said we'll get the resources flowing. … We'll be accountable to that."

The federal government, which pays a portion of all disaster financial assistance under an existing agreement, hasn't signed on to the additional pledged funds.

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"We still need details on that participation," Mr. Selinger said. "We're going to proceed with the resources we've identified, and then we'll sort it out with the federal government."

The announcement came as welcome news for Danny Kreklewich, a lawyer and homeowner who lives barely half a kilometre south of the Hoop and Holler cut. But he was hoping for a provincial pledge to cover a decline in property value he's sure is coming now that his home is on a sacrificial floodplain.

If that isn't forthcoming, Mr. Kreklewich said, he'll still consider following through on a class-action suit

"I know a lot of my neighbours are concerned about the same issue. I've had calls from several of them," he said. "One of the things I have to do is to talk to a property appraiser. … If it's a significant amount, it will be very important."

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